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Euro 2012 - Quarter Final 4 Recap

More penalty heartache for England as Italy deservedly reach the semi-finals of Euro 2012

 

England VS. Italy

Another major tournament and yet another penalty shoot-out defeat for England.

This one, however, was completely justified after Italy dominated and controlled the Three Lions throughout their quarter-final clash in Kiev.

England arrived at the championship with no real expectations or pressure under new boss Roy Hodgson, but after topping Group D on seven points the outlook of both the fans and the media began to change.

The English team went into their last eight match with Italy quietly confident of achieving the required improvement to progress and set up a grudge match semi-final with Germany.

And England’s following raised their ambitions too - a factor which undeniably increased the heat on Hodgson’s side.

But that was nothing in comparison to the direct onslaught which they faced against the Italians who would have been out of sight early on but for better finishing and a proven, prolific goal scorer on the pitch.

Danielle De Rossi’s fearsome volley from outside the area just minutes in set the tone, with a beaten Joe Hart grateful to the post for keeping things level.

England briefly put Italy on the rack straight after and created a couple of chances which seemed set to give them a platform to build upon.

But they could not seize the initiative and from midway through the first half England were a clear second best as star playmaker Andrea Pirlo ran the show.

The 33-year-old turned in one of his greatest performances for the Azzurri and frequently cut England wide open with some deadly through balls.

England were thankful for the fact that Balotelli, Cassano and De Rossi missed a hat full of clear cut chances and Italy also had a goal disallowed for offside deep into extra time.

Holding out for penalties was an achievement in itself but the Italian’s finally got the job done, netting four out of their five spot kicks to send England packing.

And Pirlo’s audacious chip past Hart was a perfect way to round off a truly remarkable display from the Juventus man.

England were told by Hodgson not to have any regrets upon leaving the field but the likes of captain Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole must certainly have felt something for far different reasons.

Italy’s stranglehold on the game was largely due to the fact that Pirlo spent most of the evening on the ball whilst Gerrard aimlessly chased his shadow.

Failure to pick up Italy’s main weapon meant the contest was never really going to swing in their favour, at least for long enough to cause change to the outcome.

And Cole, after a tremendous defensive performance, will be devastated at his penalty which was weak and devoid of confidence, the enigmatic Buffon, saving comfortably.

The future may well look bright for England in Hodgson’s eyes but for now it is Italy who march on towards potential European glory and an eagerly anticipated semi-final with tournament favourites Germany.